Deeply De-Christian Doctrines

David Keen, David Ker and Doug Chaplin have been posting on “5 Deeply De-Christian Doctrines”, a meme for which they have been tagged. So far no-one has tagged me specifically on this one, as far as I know. Is that because my name doesn’t fit the meme’s alliteration by starting with “D”? But David Ker did write:

If you’re a reader of this blog consider yourself tagged.

So I will make my contribution. The challenge is to

List 5 doctrines that are taught within the Christian church that you believe to be deeply de-Christian.

Here is my list, taking up themes already discussed on this blog:

1. Original Sin: Doug in his list has a go at Augustine, but doesn’t mention this, perhaps the most fundamental of his doctrinal errors. The Church Father and former Manichaean seems to have introduced into the church aspects of his non-Christian Manichaean teaching. I am not sure if the Manichaeans taught original sin, but, as I wrote more than two years ago, Augustine did, and justified his teaching from a misunderstanding of one poorly translated Bible passage. Later scholars have recognised Augustine’s exegetical error, but have relied on his authority as a Father and so failed to reject the false teaching that came from his error. Now I do accept that humans are born with a tendency to sin, and that, apart from Christ, all are guilty before God because all have sinned. But I reject as “deeply de-Christian” Augustine’s doctrine that babies are born guilty and subject to condemnation, apart from anything they might have done, because of the sin of Adam.

2. Church leadership by a special caste of pastors or priests: Now I know Doug would disagree with me on this one, but I don’t think either David would. It seems clear to me that Jesus and his apostles entirely rejected the concept of a special priesthood and hierarchy of church leadership. Doug is of course right that these ideas are found in the church as early as the second century. That simply shows how quickly the church became de-Christianised by taking on the values of the world. But then many Protestant Christians who would reject this concept of priesthood have set up a new priesthood by another name consisting of their pastors, elders or whatever name they choose to give – a self-perpetuating small group of those considered qualified for church leadership, and to whom deference is due. This is also “deeply de-Christian”. Of course churches do need leadership, but not on this model.

3. Leadership is male: This is one I have discussed many times before on this blog, so I won’t go into the details again. Just let me say that I can find no basis in authentic biblical Christianity for this concept, which also seems to have been imported into the church from the surrounding culture.

4. War is an acceptable means for Christians to further their aims: As we come up yet again to Remembrance Sunday here in the UK, I want to mention this one again. I do want to honour those on all sides of each conflict who have chosen to fight for what they believe is right, or have been coerced into fighting, and especially those who have died or have been injured in horrific ways. Also I don’t want to take a doctrinaire position that war can never be right or just. But I consider “deeply de-Christian” the way in which professing Christians like Bush and Blair considered it acceptable to start wars of aggression when there was no real threat to their countries or to world peace.

5. Salvation by right doctrine: In his point 5 Doug touched on this one, the idea that one is justified or saved by assenting to the right doctrine. The idea is particularly prominent today among conservative evangelicals, especially the latest crop of younger Calvinists. But it has ancient origins, in the historic Creeds of the church, assent to which came to be seen as necessary for salvation. The biblical position, however, is that the only requirement for salvation is to repent and believe that Jesus is Lord – not as a propositional truth to be accepted in an intellectual sense, but in allowing Jesus to be the Lord of one’s own life.

Although I’m not officially part of this meme’s set of links, I will challenge Eddie Arthur, TC Robinson, John Richardson, Brian Fulthorp and Suzanne McCarthy.

Jesus does speak about Christian leaders

My recent posts Leading or Lording and Is it wrong to refer to someone as “pastor”? have generated quite a lot of interest and comment, especially about A. Amos Love’s rather long-winded contributions.

Amos certainly makes some good points. But he also goes too far. For example, in an extract I quoted before, he wrote:

Jesus told His disciples not to be called master/leader …

He also wrote in a recent comment

“the tradition of men” declares we “must” have “overseers/elders/leaders.” …

Jesus told his disciples “not” to be called “leader”

But actually that is not quite correct. What he actually said in Matthew 23:8-10 was that his disciples are not to be called “Rabbi”, or “Father”, or “Teacher/Master”. The last of these words is difficult: kathēs, a word used in the New Testament only in 23:10 – not the usual Greek word for “teacher”, didaskalos, as in Ephesians 4:11, but also not the word for “master” or “lord”, kurios, in Ephesians 6:5. The word is related to English “hegemony” but also to “exegete”, and I guess that illustrates its ambiguity in Greek. But D.A. Carson, writing on this verse in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary, says:

it seems wiser to take kathēgētēs as a synonym for didaskalos.

In other words, one of the world’s top exegetes agrees that this word means not “master” but “teacher”, as rendered in NIV and TNIV, cf. NRSV “instructor”.

(By the way, I think that NIV and TNIV are wrong to translate didaskalos as “Master” in 23:8, and I have submitted a suggestion of a change to “Teacher” through Wayne Leman’s NIV revision suggestion website, as promoted at Better Bibles Blog.)

So I don’t think we have any real evidence that “Jesus told His disciples not to be called master/leader”. But even if we do accept the KJV and RSV rendering “master” this does not imply that Jesus was rejecting all leadership. After all, this passage in Matthew seems to me to be about accepting titles, not about executing functions. I’m sure he didn’t intend to forbid teaching in the church or the secular world, still less to forbid fatherhood! So, even if he did forbid the use of titles like “master” or even “leader”, his point was not to forbid people from exercising leadership functions.

This is made clear from Jesus’ teaching elsewhere. For example, in Luke 22:26 (TNIV) he teaches

the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.

“The one who rules” in Greek is ho hēgoumenos, rendered “he that is chief” in KJV and “the leader” in RSV and NRSV. In Matthew’s parallel, 20:27, and in Mark’s, 10:44, Jesus’ words (perhaps spoken on a different occasion) are presented as “whoever wants to be first”.

The Greek words ho hēgoumenos are again related to the English “hegemony”. But it is significant that this is not the noun hēgemōn “ruler”, used for example of secular governors in Luke 21:12. Rather, it is the participle of the verb hēgeomai “rule”, and so is correctly rendered “the one who rules”, suggesting a role which might be temporary rather than a permanent position of authority. But since the word “rule” is used in current English mainly of secular authority, perhaps “the one who leads” would be better in context.

The same participle form is used in Hebrews 13:7,17,24, rendered “your leaders” in TNIV, but perhaps I should suggest a change to “those who lead you”. Acts 14:12 (TNIV “chief”) and 15:22 (TNIV “leaders”) appear to be the only other uses in the New Testament of the hēgeomai word group relating to Christian leadership.

So Jesus clearly spoke here about his disciples ruling, or at least exercising leadership. He also gave strict instructions about how that leadership was to be exercised. But he did not have in mind what my commented Amos seems to promote, leaderless congregations.

Is it wrong to refer to someone as “pastor”?

My post Leading or Lording has attracted quite a lot of comment. The most prolific commenter has been a certain A. Amos Love, who I know nothing else about except that he links to a website called God’s Words of Comfort and Healing (this is not an endorsement). Indeed I infer from the idiosyncratic writing style that this Amos is the author of the articles on the site as well as of the comments.

In his often long comments Amos takes a strong position that there should be no leaders in the church, for example:

If Jesus told His disciples
not to be called master/leader
and someone calls them self a leader
or thinks they are a leader;

are they a disciple of Christ?

Titles become idols and
pastors become masters.

I don’t accept Amos’ complete rejection of the fivefold ministry of Ephesians 4:11. But I do accept a need to look carefully at how these five ministries, or at least some of them, have becomes offices and positions of honour in the church, and whether this is biblical.

I wasn’t sure how to answer Amos on some of his points. I am not entirely opposed to his position, but I feel that he is unnecessarily negative about many humble pastors and others who serve the church faithfully without thought for their own positions and titles. So I thought what Amos writes would make a good discussion starter for a wider audience. So here, with Amos’ permission, is one of his lengthy comments in full, slightly reformatted. This is a response to my question which he quotes at the beginning. How would any of you my readers respond to this?


“But is it wrong to refer to someone e.g. as “pastor” if he or she is truly gifted by God for that ministry?”

The fast answer now is; Yes, it is wrong. Very wrong. If someone wants to call you “pastor” run as fast as you can… They tried making Jesus king, he said no, and he was qualified to be king, Yes? Just because you have gifts and are qualified should you accept the title? Do “Titles become Idols” of the heart? Do “Pastors become Masters/leaders?”  Trust and obey – Not think and decide.

I’ve come to understand the danger to both those who think they are a “shepherd.” And those taught, they are “only” “sheep” and need a human “shepherd” to lead and guide them.

In the Bible, How many people… have the title pastor?
In the Bible, How many people are… referred to as pastor?
In the Bible, How many people are… ordained as a pastor?
In the Bible, How many congregations are… led by a pastor?

Every titled “pastor” I’ve met also had the “title” reverend. Can’t find that one in the KJV either; Can you?

Now the Anglicans really have a slew of titles; Don’t they? Father, priest, pastor, rector, vicar, reverend, most right reverend. Had a friend. Teased him all the time. Who are you today? { ; o ) And he wore a dress and got paid for giving 15 minute sermonetts. Ah! Religion, It’s a beautiful thing…

If no one in the Bible is “called or has the title” “pastor” don’t I help “perpetrate a myth” that is not in the Bible and help “the traditions of men” make the Word of non effect when I call or refer to someone as pastor?

I believe you already know the word “pastor” is Greek for “shepherd.” “Shepherd” was a low place then, but… “Pastor” is now a high place, a title, a profession, a salaried position and accepted by the world system. Where is that in the Bible? Tradition of men? Nullify the Word of God?

Along with the “title pastor” comes, (a few things we didn’t ask for?) power, profit, prestige, prominence, position, recognition, reputation, honor, self importance, self worth, etc. (and leaness to the soul?) Yes, God, gives you what you ask for – and something extra. Hmmm?

Could these be, “those things that are highly esteemed among men
but is an abomination in the sight of God?” Luke 16:15

Could these be, “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, not of the Father, but is of the world?” 1John 2:16

Most, that I’ve met, started out wanting to serve Christ. They didn’t want to steal the glory that belonged only to Jesus. They just didn’t refuse it when the glory came. The tests had begun.

A man that flattereth his neighbour spreadeth a net for his feet. Pr 29:5

Bread of deceit is sweet to a man; but afterwards his mouth shall be filled with gravel. Pr 20:17

Yes, I’ve failed a lot of tests and eaten a lot of gravel myself. Ouch! { : o (….

“The Lord is “my” shepherd.” Psalm 23. I’m happy being a sheep now. And the servants get to see the miracles. John2:9 Ahhh! Peace, Joy, Love!!!

You’ll have to admit there is a tremendous amount of “shepherd” burn out, for him and his family, in the religious system. The shepherd and his family live in this glass bubble and have to watch everything they do. They have to “act” in a way that either pleases the people (fear of man) or keeps the people in line.(Lord it over)

Either way it is different from who they really are. (Hypocrites?) It’s almost impossible to heard a hundred people sheep. They don’t seem to respond like sheep sheep.

Alan Knox – “it is not easy to lead without “lording it over” other people” It’s impoosible. (Just my very humble opinion.) Leaders=Lord it over=always. But, if you see yourself as a servant you let Jesus do His thing, Let Him be Lord.

I’ve had friends of mine who just couldn’t do it anymore. They had to leave for their own well being. An Episcople priest, an Assemblies of God pastor,
a Baptist pastor and evangelists who traveled the country.

Lot’s of ugly stuff going on behind the scenes. You know what I mean. Oh, not on sunday morning of course. That’s the entertainment. The show. Sunday we “act” like we’re really christians. It’s the law. Look over there…Is that Jesus crying over what people are calling, His Church? Is this what he had in mind for His bride to look like? His temple? My,My…

They were in an “office” and “position” that’s not in the scriptures. Pastors in pulpits, preaching, to people in pews. And it better be good…. Every week… My, my… stress, stress… CEO… Councelor… Team captain… Smiley face… etc.,etc…

They had to try and serve three masters. Oy vey! Jesus, the denomination, and the congregation. No wonder there is so much burnout.

Jesus already knows how to shepherd His sheep. He does a much better job then we ever could.

I’m getting long winded and I’m just getting started. Still have to cover the dangers for “the sheep” led by a man. Hmmm? Those who are led by the Spirit? Are they the sons of God?

Well done thou good and faithful; leader? pastor?

Love and peace.

Leading or Lording

Bill Heroman, in a break from his interesting series on Jesus in Nazareth, has published challenging posts Lording it Over and Leading, not Lording. Bill is responding to a post by Alan Knox, to which he also replies in the comments. Here is a quote from Bill’s former post:

If anyone provides leadership in the body of Christ, they do a great thing, providing a wonderful service for both God and the saints. But if someone leads constantly, or exclusively, or holds permanent veto power over all decisions, then by definition I think we need to realize that such a person IS (de facto) “lording it over” the people of God. It doesn’t matter one bit whether their style is gracious or domineering. If you give all the orders, or permit all the orders, then you have, in practice, assumed the position of an earthly lord.

I have a lot of sympathy with what Bill is saying here. Lord Acton’s dictum (originally addressed to a bishop)

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely

applies in the church just as much as in the political realm, if the Holy Spirit is not allowed to correct the situation. Sadly very many church leaders start out with strong individual ministries led by the Holy Spirit, but as the Spirit’s power fades they start to operate in their own power, which if not controlled quickly corrupts them and their churches.

The problem with Bill’s position is that the New Testament does teach that the church should have elders, pastors, overseers and deacons, without clarifying how these offices relate to one another. Bill’s suggestion that the role of a pastor in Ephesians 4:11 is “an exception for a very young church” is not tenable. He defends this in his second post with

But there is an “until” in Ephesians 4.

Indeed, but that “until” in verse 13 refers to the time when we “attain[] to the whole measure of the fulness of Christ” (TNIV). That is not something I have seen in typical middle-aged churches – it is something we can look forward to only in the kingdom of God. Until then Christians still need to be equipped and the body of Christ still needs to be built up (verse 12), and so the fivefold ministry of verse 11, including apostolic ministry, is still required.

Perhaps a more balanced position is that of Alan Knox:

Don’t misunderstand me, as an elder, it is not easy to lead without “lording it over” other people, but Jesus said, “It shall not be so among you.” So, it does me no good to state that I should NOT have authority over others, then go ahead and exercise authority. I must try to work this into my life.

Yes, the church does need spiritually gifted leaders. Ephesians 4:14 describes the alternative, what is likely to happen to a group of believers where the fivefold ministry is not exercised: they don’t grow out of infancy. Sadly this looks very like many churches today. What the church needs is not an absence of leadership, but leading which is not lording it but follows the proper biblical pattern.

Bad boys and big bad bears

In his post Bad Boy Bible Study meets Ship of Fools David Ker challenged me, along with sixteen other bloggers, to outline a sermon on 2 Kings 2:23-24, the story about Elisha and the bears who killed 42 bad boys – although arguably the real bad boy in the story is Elisha:

Here are the rules:

  • You’ve been asked to teach or preach on this passage.
  • What would you say?

Simple, eh?

Well, maybe not so simple. I could decline the tag on the basis that I am not a preacher. But then I am a bit of a frustrated preacher, and so I will accept the challenge. Here is the passage, in TNIV:

From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some boys came out of the town and jeered at him. “Get out of here, baldy!” they said. “Get out of here, baldy!” 24 He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the LORD. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys.

What can I say? I could muse on the significance of 42. The number of life, the universe and everything? But that’s not from the Bible, it’s from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The number of humanity (6) multiplied by the number of perfection (7)? Possibly, and so indicating that the whole of humanity is perfectly cursed by God – no, that must be Alexander’s Sword exegesis. Or perhaps the only significance of 42 is that this was historically the number of boys who were torn in pieces – probably a more accurate translation of the Hebrew than “maul” (compare the same word in 2 Kings 8:12, 15:16 and Hosea 13:8, 16, all translated in TNIV “rip open”, which has perhaps tried to mitigate the violence in 2 Kings 2:24).

But there is one real sermon point I would want to take from this passage. That is about the power of a prophet’s words.

Elisha as a prophet filled with the Holy Spirit had within him the power and authority of God, with which he was able to pronounce a curse on the boys which was not mere words but had immediate effect. Similarly there is authority in our words as Spirit-filled Christians, and by that I mean all true Christians. God has given us the right to ask for anything in Jesus’ name and promised to give it to us (John 14:13-14, 15:7, 16:23, in context). Sometimes he does this even when it is not a good thing, as the Israelites who craved meat found out when they received quail which brought a plague (Numbers 11:4, 31-34). The same is true of Elisha’s curse on the boys: God answered it by sending the bears even though that was not a good thing.

So, as Christians,  we must be careful not to ask for bad things or pray curses on people, but instead we should bless them and ask for what is good.

Rabbis act over swine flu – and not like Archbishops!

The BBC reports that

A group of rabbis and Jewish mystics have taken to the skies over Israel, praying and blowing ceremonial horns in a plane to ward off swine flu.

About 50 religious leaders circled over the country on Monday, chanting prayers and blowing horns, called shofars.

The flight’s aim was “to stop the pandemic so people will stop dying from it,” Rabbi Yitzhak Batzri was quoted as saying in Yedioth Aharanot newspaper. …

“We are certain that, thanks to the prayer, the danger is already behind us,” added Mr Batzri …

There is even a short video of this, taken during the flight.

I’m not sure that I would endorse this way of tackling the swine flu problem. Why did they take to the air for their prayers, rather than pray on the ground where the problem actually is? (If anyone knows an answer to that question, please put it in a comment.) But at least they are doing what religious leaders should: praying and doing religious ceremonial actions. And it is not really for me, as a Christian, to criticise how religious Jews conduct themselves, except to long that they recognise their true Messiah.

By contrast, the Archbishops of the Church of England have hit the news not for how they have prayed for the swine flu danger to pass, nor for how they have urged their clergy and church members to pray, but for their panicked reaction and abandonment of biblical and traditional Christian practice.

Is swine flu more powerful than God, so that the blood of Jesus Christ is not able to protect us from its effects? That is the implication of the Archbishops’ advice. Or is God Lord over swine flu and every other kind of evil? The rabbis who took to the air clearly believe that. Would that the leaders of the Church of England also believed it!

Incoherence in 1 Timothy 2

I just got home from an event of which I was in fact one of the organisers: Jim Ramsay,  Director of the Department of Evangelism in the Diocese of Sydney, was speaking at my home church building (as a hired venue) on Every church a mission centre – strategy, leadership and ideas. I appreciated what he had to say, much of which was about the importance of prayer in evangelism. But it came as no surprise to me, and probably wouldn’t to others familiar with Sydney Anglicanism, that he based his talk on a passage from the ESV Bible. And, given his subject, it made sense that he used the very same controversial chapter from ESV that Suzanne McCarthy has recently been complaining about: 1 Timothy 2. But Jim, reading only as far as verse 8, avoided the gender issue which upset Suzanne, except that on verse 8 he said that women were also called to pray.

It was concerning the ESV rendering of verse 5 that Suzanne wrote:

It is no longer possible to preach even the basic salvation of half the human race from the ESV … the ESV states clearly that Christ Jesus is not a mediator between Christ and women.

In a follow-up post Suzanne quotes the following from the ESV preface:

Therefore, to the extent that plain English permits and the meaning in each case allows, we have sought to use the same English word for important recurring words in the original.

What I noticed when Jim read out the passage was ESV’s lamentable failure to keep to this principle in this passage, 1 Timothy 2:1-8. In the Greek two different words for “man” or “human being” are used, one four times and the other once. Here is how they have been translated in various versions, in approximate date order:

Original Greek: v.1: panton anthropon; v.4: pantas anthropous; v.5: anthropon, anthropos; v.8: andras.

KJV: v.1: all men; v.4: all men; v.5: men, the man; v.8: men.

RSV: identical to KJV.

NIV: v.1: everyone; v.4: all men; v.5: men, the man; v.8: men.

NRSV: v.1: everyone; v.4: everyone; v.5: humankind … human; v.8: men.

ESV: v.1: all people; v.4: all people; v.5: men, the man; v.8: men.

TNIV: v.1: everyone; v.4: all people; v.5: human beings … human; v.8: men.

It seems that none of these versions have done a good job of maintaining the coherence of this passage. In verses 1-7 there is a clear theme of what is applicable to the whole of humankind irrespective of gender (anthropos): prayers are to be made for them (v.1) because God desires them to be saved (v.4) and has provided the mediator to make this possible (v.5). Following that the author provides different instructions for male (aner) (v.8) and female (vv.9-15) readers. For this passage to make sense as a whole the Greek words anthropos and aner need to be translated consistently and distinctly. But none of the versions I have quoted have done this properly.

I applaud KJV and RSV for maintaining coherence in their rendering of anthropos as “man”, a good rendering at the time when “man” was commonly used in this gender generic sense. But they were let down by the weakness of the English language of the time, which has since been corrected, in that there was no suitable distinct word that they could use to refer to male humans only.

NRSV and TNIV have at least managed to make a clear distinction between gender generic anthropos and gender specific aner. But they have done so at the expense of losing the coherence of the “all people” theme in vv.1-7.

ESV, I am sorry to say, has gone for the worst of both worlds. It starts well by revising RSV’s “all men” in vv.1,4 to “all people”, and maintaining the contrast with “men” in v.8. But it is let down by its rendering of v.5, which seems to have been considered in isolation from its context. Or perhaps they simply omitted to revise this verse, which is identical to RSV. As a result a reader of ESV could easily assume that the “men” referred to here are to be contrasted with the “all people” of the previous verse and are instead to be identified with the “men” of v.8. Indeed this is how Suzanne seems to have read this verse.

Now I am sure that it is not the intention of the ESV translators to teach that “Christ Jesus is not a mediator between Christ and women”. But if so they need to demonstrate this. I suppose they have done so by putting this footnote on verse 5:

men and man render the same Greek word that is translated people in verses 1 and 4

But Jim Ramsay didn’t read out or refer to this footnote, or copy it on his handout, and I’m sure the same will almost always apply when this verse is read out during public preaching or teaching. It is simply not appropriate to put a misleading translation in the main text and a correction in a footnote.

So I call on the ESV translation team, as well as the TNIV and NRSV teams, to revise their wording of this passage to ensure that the theme of “all people” is clear in verses 1-7 and contrasted from the “men only” instruction of verse 8.

Church leaders and the steward of Gondor

John Meunier has an interesting and provocative post in which he compares church leaders with the steward of Gondor, in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. He suggests that, just as the stewards of Gondor started to see themselves as kings,

the leaders of the church start to imagine they are Christ. …

It was this impulse and arrogance that caused the Reformation. But the Reformers were just as eager to become the voice of Christ themselves.

The stewards’ pretensions didn’t last long when the true king arrived. I hope that not many church leaders have this kind of attitude. But any who do will find themselves embarrassed, to say the least, when Jesus returns in his glory and settles accounts with them. Tolkien was surely aware of what Jesus had to say about stewards (the KJV rendering at least) such as Luke 12:42-46.

Jesus and Authority

If the “Son” is sent by the “Father,” and if the “Son” comes to do the will of the “Father,” does it not stand to reason that God wishes by this language to indicate something of the authority and submission that exists within the relationships of the members of the immanent trinity?

– Bruce Ware, quoted here (see also here).

It is the nature of the second person of the Trinity to acknowledge the authority and submit to the good pleasure of the first.

– J.I. Packer in Knowing God (1973), quoted here.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. …”

– Matthew 28:18 (TNIV)

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

– Philippians 2:9-11 (TNIV)

So is Jesus the one who submits to authority or the one who exercises it?

Responding to biblical arguments for slavery, and for subordination of women

The somewhat mysterious* C Miller of Mustard Seed Kingdom has written an interesting and provocative post (or perhaps it’s just the subject matter which is provocative) summarising what Kevin Giles has written about the biblical argument for slavery, as put forward by many 19th century evangelicals, and how we should respond to it.

To summarise even more briefly, Giles wonders whether the evangelicals who supported slavery “were mistaken in their interpretation of the Scriptures”, or “were right”, or

were basically correct in their exegesis of the passages to which they referred but wrong in their doctrine of the Bible, in viewing it as a timeless set of oracles without historical conditioning.

If we presuppose that they were not right in supporting slavery, we have to conclude that either their exegesis was wrong or their doctrine of the Bible was. Giles writes about them:

These men appeared to the Bible as if it were a set of timeless oracles or propositions not recognising that in fact it reflected the culture of its authors and their presuppositions at least to some degree…failed to note that on most issues addressed by the Bible various answers are given to complex questions.

And he goes on to draw the lessons from this for the biblical argument for the subordination of women:

The biblical case for slavery is the counterpart of the case for the subordination of women, the only difference being that the case for slavery has far more weighty biblical support. …the internal biblical critique of slavery is less profound than that against the subordination of women.

And he concludes by suggesting that within a century the biblical argument for subordination of women will be rejected just as clearly as today the argument for slavery is rejected.

Any reactions?

* Actually I have discovered that she is called Clare and lives in or near Durham, for which her blog header photo is in fact a dead giveaway for those who can recognise a cathedral. And I think I have even found her brief resume with a picture. So much for Internet privacy!